Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tax Time

It is approaching income tax time, and I have already paid my income tax and property tax. It is very difficult to evade paying taxes. Even if you don't have property to pay taxes on, the owner of the property you live in has included the taxes in your rent. You have paid his taxes for him.

These taxes come due every year. There is another payment that comes due only once in a life time. It is called death.

You may not know it, but there are two deaths. Everyone goes through the first. The fact of being human guaranties the first death. You can anticipate the first death fearfully. But God has made it possible to not be afraid of death. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14-15).

There is another death, called the second death. It is not for everyone and does not have to be for anyone. “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14-15). Come to Him who is willing to write your name in the book of life.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt. 11:28-29)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Fleets in Being

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:10-17)
In the past, between wars, there was an expression “a fleet in being.” It had the same connotation as “a standing army.” It meant that we were ready for war but not actually in war. We were always in training, but never fighting. One time, on December 7, 1941, the U.S. Navy “fleet” in being got sunk by the enemy because it was not at war.

Many of our churches and Christian organizations have become fleets in being. In other words, they don’t think they are in a war. It is the same with many individual Christians: they have no intention of “going into harm’s way.” They think they can live in peace.

The problem is that they are in a war. There is no honorable discharge from the service while they are alive. There is no furlough and no “rest and relaxation.” However, if they are not consciously participating in the war, they may be aiding and abetting the enemy. This is the next thing to treason; or if that is not the case, they become captives, ineffective, marginalized or immobilized by the enemy. All of this happens because they think that they are not in the war.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Why?

The question, “Why?” has caused great problems among Christians. It should be a legitimate question, and is in some instances. If the answer is clear in the Word of God, there is no problem. If the question is not answered clearly in the Bible, then it is the answers that are given which cause the problems. Answers are pulled from the blue sky or derived by reasoning, sometimes fallaciously, sometimes convoluted, sometimes legitimate, but still not inspired.

We do not seem to be able to say, “The Bible does not say, so I don’t know,” or, “I am not going to guess,” or, “Let’s search the text for an answer.” We think we have to give an immediate answer.

“Why?” questions can be accusatory (“Why did God command Joshua to kill all of the Canaanites?”) or curious (“Why did Jesus walk on the water?”). These “Why?” questions should only be answered if the person asking really wants an answer and the answer is in the Bible.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Little Sins & Big Sins

Have you ever wondered how men who have been Christians a long time or who are leaders in the church of Jesus Christ have fallen into sexual immorality or divorce, or have been dishonest or unethical in conduct? One answer Christians have given me is that these leaders are special targets of the Enemy because they are so greatly used.

I have difficulty with this answer (although it is possible) because of the statements in 1 Corinthians 10: “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:12-13).

In this passage, there are statements about man, temptation, and God. If a man sins, it is not because of the greatness of the temptation; the temptation is common. Nor is his sin caused by God’s unfaithfulness; God is faithful. Why does man sin? He thinks he is strong. He is not careful. He is caught off guard and sins.

I believe this is true with the little sins as well as the big ones. However, the little sins precede the big ones. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10). Jesus makes it clear that the test for trust in big things is an observation of trust or dishonesty in little things.

We see the same sort of progression in Psalm 19:13. “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” Innocence is guaranteed by two prior victories: first, being kept from willful sins by God and, second, not being controlled by willful sins.

We do not need to watch out for the big temptations or the big sins. If we are kept by God from willful sins, we will not have to be worried about big ones. The pastor or Christian leader who falls to big temptations has already fallen to many little ones. He has not confessed the little sins. If he had, the big sin would not have happened.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Weapons & Tactics in Evangelism: Limitations & Abilities

Since that battle, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the enemy of our souls has been severely handicapped.

His power is limited. “But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Rev 12:8-9).

His intelligence is limited. “No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:7-8).

His time is limited, and he knows it. “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:12).

Like most beings who have these limitations, his arrogance is unlimited. “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High’” (Isa. 14: 12-14).

We, as Christians, should know Satan’s limitations and should not be intimidated as if they were not there. We should also know that we have characteristics that Satan does not have:

We have the power; Satan does not.
…and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 1:19-20)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:16-19)
We have the mind of Christ; Satan does not. “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:15-16).

We have everlasting life; Satan does not. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

We are commanded to be humble and have the ability to be humble; Satan does not.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5-11)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Eph. 4:2)

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:11)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Weapons & Tactics in Evangelism: God's Objective

God has an objective. It is the salvation of the world. In the past, He assigned tasks to prophets Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David and many others. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways” (Heb. 1:1). Each task had a subordinate objective that was part of the whole.

Then He sent John. “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John” (John 1:6). John’s objective was to prepare the way for Jesus. John was like a highway engineer with a fleet of powerful, fast, earthmoving machines.
A voice of one calling; “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isa. 40:3-5)

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.” (John 1:23)

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matt. 3:1-2)
One specific part of his preaching repentance was, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Mal. 4:6).

Then God sent His son:
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law. (Gal. 4:4)

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil. (Heb. 2:14)
The war had been going on for thousands of years. Now had come the decisive person, place, action and time. The person was transcendent: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

The action was transcendent: April of 30 A.D. but also “slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:8)

The place was transcendent: outside the city, in the temple on earth, and in the temple in heaven.
They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). (Matt. 27:33)

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. (Matt. 27:50-51)

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priests enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. (Heb. 9:24-27)

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:19-22)
This event took place in time and before time, on earth and in heaven. This battle was the decisive battle of the war. It was the only means of accomplishing God’s objective, the salvation of the world.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Spiritual Warfare

There is no question that we are at war. It is a spiritual war. Among evangelicals, there is a limited thinking about spiritual war. We tend to define it in terms of fighting demons, devils, and evil spirits in possessed people or in the heavenlies. This is partly correct. Spiritual warfare does include these things, but they are not what the war is about.

The war is about and over the souls of men. That is what the Bible, the Gospel, the Incarnation and the Cross are all about.

Part of the war took place in Heaven. “There was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back. But the dragon wasn’t strong enough. He and his angels lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down to the earth and his angels with him. The dragon is that old serpent called the devil, or Satan. He leads the whole world down the wrong path” (Rev. 12: 7-9).

The rest of the war takes place on earth.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven. It said, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God have come. The authority of his Christ has come. Satan, who brings charges against our brothers and sisters, has been thrown down. He brings charges against them before our God day and night. They overcame him because the Lamb gave his life’s blood for them. They overcame him by giving witness about Jesus to others. They were willing to risk their lives, even if it led to death. So be joyful, you heavens! Be glad, all you who live there! But how terrible it will be for the earth and the sea! The devil has come down to you. He is very angry. He knows his time is short.” (Rev. 12:10-12)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Continuous Revival

A recent history of revival:

• The East African Revival of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. See Roy Hession’s The Calvary Road, Norman Grubb’s Continuous Revival, and Festo Kivengere’s Revolutionary Love.
• The Welsh Revival very early in the 1900s, where tens of thousands were converted in a few weeks. See Jessie Penn-Lewis’s The Awakening in Wales.
• The Korean Revival and the North China Revivals, also early in the 20th century. See When the Spirit’s Fire Swept Korea by Jonathan Goforth.
• The Great Awakening in the mid-18th century and the Second Great Awakening in the mid-19th century. These two hit England, Scotland, Wales, the Colonies, and the United States.

The United States did not experience anything in the 20th century that could remotely be called revival. We did see two World Wars and the ascendancy of liberalism in the Church. Europe, however, took the most damage from both the wars and the liberalism.

The nations that did have revivals had something else by the middle of the century: genocide, no freedom, and communism in China and North Korea. There were wars and genocide in Rwanda and a very dead secular community in Wales.

Each century has four or five generations in it, and each one of us knows, in part, two generations before us and two generations after us.
But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. (Psalm 71:14-18)
This is talking about next-generation evangelism.
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Deut. 5:8)
This is talking about loving and obeying God. This is good for a thousand generations.

How do we keep the revival going? Loving God, obeying God, and proclaiming His righteousness and only His are the primary means of continuous revival. Confession of sin by believers is the secondary means of continuous revival.

The enemy always counter-attacks after any successful evangelism. In the book of Acts, we can see this physical violent reaction in Jerusalem (Acts 7-9), Damascus (Acts 9), Antioch (Acts 13), Iconium (Acts 14), Lystra (Acts 14), Philippi (Acts 16), and Thessalonica (Acts 17).

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Rituals

Every church has its rituals, whether it is an Independent Baptist Church, an Anglo-Catholic church, a non-denomination church, or anything in between. Liturgical churches have planned rituals. Non-liturgical churches have rituals by default.

At worst, rituals become idolatrous; at best, they are figures of the true. Between the best and the worst, they are dead traditions. Normally rituals start as figures of Scriptural truth and end up idols.

The rituals described in detail in the Old Testament were meant to be figures of the true, which we can see in Hebrews 7-10. Long before these rituals were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, they had ceased to be figures; they became the real thing to the people who practiced them. When this happened, they were no longer acceptable to God even as figures. Sodom is not the subject of Isaiah 1; Jerusalem and Judah are (v. 1).
Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isa. 1:10-20)
There is an example of this when Jesus used the bronze serpent to open up the gospel to Nicodemus in John 3:14: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” This bronze serpent, the symbol of Sin and Death also symbolized Jesus who was made sin for us. This symbol, this figure of the cross, became an idol to the people for seven hundred years until Hezekiah had it destroyed. “He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)” (2 Kings 18:4).

Now the cross has become an idol and sometimes a fetish.

Whatever the rituals are in your church, do you know their significance? Have they lost their significance?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why & How

Two of the most basic questions that mankind has had since the Fall have been “Why?” and “How?” In both religion and science, these questions have led to great searches, theories, guesses, and fact-finding. As a result, there have been great advances in science. In the process, there also have been wrong conclusions in every century.

Because of man’s impatience for answers, his credulity, his mysticism, and his rebellion, billions of people live in scientific and spiritual darkness.

There is a basic right answer to every “why?” and “how?” question. The answer is, “The LORD, the God of Heaven who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9).
I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness. (Isa. 45:6-7)

It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. (Isa. 45:12)
This right answer has been around forever. Rebelling against Him has caused a great moral problem.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over to the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree they those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but they also approve of those who practice them. (Rom 1:18-32)
This right answer, “The LORD,” is the solution to the moral problem as well as the scientific problem.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Col. 1:23-30)
There is another problem with asking, “Why?” Sometimes we are not looking for an authoritative answer which we would be ready to accept. Rather, the question is asked in an accusatory way that assumes that there is not an adequate authoritative answer.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Mind of Man

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:11)
One of the things I see often is people judging the thoughts and motives of another person with absolute certainty. To them, they are self-evident. The text I quoted is a rhetorical question. Paul is not asking for a show of hands on who knows another person’s thoughts. He is saying that we cannot know the thoughts of another person. We could know if he told us, or we could know if we had his spirit. We could also know if God revealed his thoughts to us. Until then, we must not judge the thoughts of another person. We guess! We guess wrongly and act on our guess as if we were right.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Mind of Christ

We know more about the thoughts of God than we do about the thoughts of man. How can that be? He has revealed His thoughts to us in the Scriptures, and He has given us His Spirit to understand the spiritual words.
None of the rulers of this world understood God’s wisdom. If they had, they would not have nailed the Lord of glory to the cross. It is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has known what God has prepared for those who love him.” But God has shown it to us through his Spirit. The Spirit understands all things. He understands even the deep things of God. Who can know the thoughts of another person? Only a person’s own spirit can know them. In the same way, only the Spirit of God knows God’s thoughts. We have not received the spirit of the world. We have received the Spirit who is from God. The Spirit helps us understand what God has freely given us. That is what we speak about. We don’t use words taught to us by people. We use words taught to us by the Holy Spirit. We use the words of the Spirit to teach the truths of the Spirit. Some people don’t have the Holy Spirit. They don’t accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. Things like that are foolish to them. They can’t understand them. In fact, such things can’t be understood without the Spirit’s help. Everyone who has the Spirit can judge all things. But no one can judge those who have the Spirit. It is written, “Who can ever know what is in the Lord’s mind? Can anyone ever teach him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:8-16)
This is so wonderful, we hesitate to say it is true. We dare not say it is false. Meditate on this truth.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Knowing God's Will

What is the meaning of God’s will? What have I to do in order to do God’s will? How can I know God’s will?

There are two ultimate expressions of God’s will in Scripture. The first is our salvation: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4). The second is related: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thess. 4:3a). Both of these were accomplished by Jesus Christ. “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).

So we know that the will of God for us is our salvation, which includes our justification (conversion), holiness (sanctification), and the redemption of our bodies at the Second Coming (again, all paid for in advance).

Since we have already experienced our justification, and we wait patiently for the Second Coming, our participation now is in our holiness (our sanctification). Remember that it is already paid and provided for.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Pet. 1:3)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:22-24)
Being in the will of God means obedience to His clear commands in the Scriptures.

Knowing the details of God’s will outside of obeying Scriptural commands (for questions like, “Who should I marry? Where should I work? Should I be a missionary?”) is not difficult if we are walking in the light, walking in the Spirit. If I am not walking in the light, the detailed will of God could be written on the wall, and I would not be able to read it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Increase

I like the word “increase.” Of course, it makes a difference what it is referring to. Here are a few references from the Bible. I will start with negative-sounding phrases:

Genesis 3:16: “I will greatly increase your pains.”
Proverbs 22:16: “One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth…”
Matthew 24:12: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Now for the blessings:

Isaiah 9:7: “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”
Acts 12:24: “But the word of God continued to increase.”
Acts 6:7: “The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.”
Romans 5:20: “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”

Joyful Singing

There are many ways to express joy: singing, laughter, hugging, cheering, dancing. However, it is possible to sing, laugh, hug, cheer, and dance without joy. We can do these things for pleasure, which is not the same.

In the first instance, the singing is the result of joy. In the second instance, we think that the singing causes joy, although it really causes pleasure. The danger is that we might think that pleasure is joy and also not be able to distinguish between cause and effect.

When the singing in our churches becomes drab, we look for solutions. We get a band with drums, a worship leader, or amplifiers. The singing might improve, or it might just look like it has improved.

A much better solution is to consider that the drab singing is evidence that the saints have lost the joy of God’s salvation (Psalm 51:12). This loss is the result of accumulated, unconfessed, unforgiven sins. Confession of these sins will restore the joy of God’s salvation and, consequently, will restore singing from the heart, not just from the mouth.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Testing True & False

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Pet. 1:3)

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)
Are these things true? Yes. Answer, “True,” and, “Thank God.” After you do this, read the verses again and answer, “Very true,” and thank Him again.

Continue this until the truth of our answer gets beyond your mental understanding and begins to seep into you, so that you are overwhelmed with wonder because of the magnitude of each of the words. This may take some time. These are superlatives beyond our comprehension. We said “True” the first time because we are Christians and we are supposed to say “True” to statements in Scripture. Now we can believe and obey God from our heart.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Worthy of Respect

Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. (1 Tim. 3:2)

Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. (1 Tim. 3:8)

In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. (1 Tim. 3:11)

Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. (1 Thess. 5:12-13)
Leaders/servants in the church must be worthy of respect. This is different from all other up-and-down relationships. Children must respect their fathers and mothers because they are their fathers and mothers, not because they are respectable. If it were necessary for parents to be worthy of respect before they become parents, the world would have a small population. It is the same with kings, governors, and masters. They are to be given respect because of their position, whether or not they are worthy of respect. This is not true in the church. Elders must be examples to the flock, the kind of example which, if imitated by the church, would make the church more godly.

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7). If we consider the outcome of their way of life and find out that they are not worthy of respect, we should not imitate them. If they are not worthy of respect, they should not be elders or deacons.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Do Not Resist an Evil Person

You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matt. 5:38-42)
The Old Testament passage on “an eye for an eye” was a teaching on justice. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught on personal responses to evil directed at you’re your personal response is different from justice.

What is the Teaching? The teaching is self-evident if we do not enter the text with questions like, “Where do we draw the line?” Since that question is not answered in the text, we will assume that there is no line. Jesus did not qualify His teaching.

The basic command is, “Do not resist an evil person.” The five examples that follow it assume that the other person is evil: he intends harm, stealing, or mischief, with evil motives—gain to him and harm or loss to you.

• “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” My father taught me to fight back, and yet he tried to keep me out of fights. In the 8th and 9th grades, I was in five serious fistfights, and another one in 11th grade. I did not know Jesus’ teaching, but if I had I would not have taken it seriously. My views of honor, pride, courage, masculinity, and peer pressure all stacked up against turning the other cheek. However, Jesus was talking about a real evil person really hitting you on the right cheek and you really turning the left cheek to him so he could hit that one, too.
• “If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” Again, this is an evil person who wants to sue you. He hasn’t done it yet; he has only let you know that he intends to sue. You are to voluntarily settle out of court, give him your shirt, and throw in your coat. This is not “one of your shirts” and “one of your coats,” it is your shirt (singular) and your coat (singular).
• “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” This force is at threat of harm, sword, spear, or gunpoint. The man is an evil person. The second mile is not forced; it is a free gift to an evil person.

In these three instances, the first cheek, the first article of clothing, and the first mile are forced from you. The second cheek, the second piece of clothing, and the second mile are your gifts to the evil person.

• “Give to the one who asks you.”
• “Do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Over the years, I have listened to many “what ifs,” regarding these last two instances, most of which are based upon thinking that the other person will not return the money. Of course he won’t; that is a given. The other person is evil. People who want to draw a line draw it where none of the teaching gets obeyed. If you must draw a line, draw it where at least some of the teaching is obeyed. Even if there are exceptions, you need to know when you will obey the command, not when you won’t.

Why does Jesus give this teaching? There is no hint as to why in the passage itself. Most of us think we have to know “why” before we obey, and then we have to agree with God’s reason.

In 1 Corinthians 9:19, there is a clue as to the reason for the teaching: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” In this sentence, there is no force involved at all. Paul is absolutely free. Paul uses his freedom to lose his freedom. He puts himself under voluntary servitude. Why? To win as many as possible. This is Paul’s method of evangelism. Paul learned this from Jesus.
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pet. 2:21-24)
This teaching about Jesus comes right after Peter’s teaching on how Christian slaves should behave and right before his teaching to wives on how they should win their husbands.

Jesus’ death on the cross was forced by others but was voluntary on His part. The cross is the way of salvation. We should proclaim the Gospel in the same way as Jesus did when He went to the cross. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, that you should follow in his steps.” Paul was imitating Jesus, and he says to us in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Here is a reason for Jesus’ teaching to not resist an evil person. The reason is to win the evil person to Christ. Kindness leads people to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

We may not be sure this works, because there are not many examples of Christians obeying this command. We do, however, have many examples of this command not being obeyed, and we know from experience that resisting evil people does not win them to Christ. We should base our decision to obey on Jesus’ command, on His example, and on Paul’s example.

Friday, March 03, 2017

An Eye for an Eye

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matt. 5:38-42)

Justice or Vengeance? Jesus quoted “eye for eye and tooth for tooth” as it was “said.” It was “said” as vengeance, retaliation, and revenge. It was this saying that Jesus is countermanding.

But isn’t this a quotation from the Old Testament? Yes, it was, but it is not the Old Testament reference that Jesus was speaking to. If it were, He would not have said, “You have heard that it was said.” He would have said, “It is written” and He would not have disagreed with the Scripture. Jesus was disavowing the misquotation of this Scripture by people who wanted to justify vengeance.

Here is the full paragraph from Exodus 21:22-25: “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”

This passage covers two kinds of premature birth caused by injury to a pregnant woman. The first kind is where the baby (or the woman) is not seriously injured. In that case, the man who caused the injury which resulted in the premature birth is to be fined by two standards: 1) what the husband demands, and 2) what the court allows. The court might not allow what the husband demands. This is a civil suit with a court decision, not personal vengeance.

The second kind is where there is serious injury to the baby or the woman. This is a criminal offense, not a case for a civil suit. The court is given specific, exact penalties to assign to the guilty party. What are they? “You are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” This was assigned by God through Moses at the same time that He gave the Ten Commandments. This is just law. It does not require a life for a hand or a life for a tooth or life for a bruise. It requires a life for a life, a tooth for a tooth. It also does not allow the guilty party to get off without a penalty for the injury he inflicted. It is neither too severe nor too lenient; it is just.

However, Jesus was not speaking to this law. He was speaking to the quotation of the law out of context.

Other Scriptures verify that the Bible does not allow vengeance:

• God provided six cities of refuge for the Israelites to protect people from avengers until they received a fair trial or until the high priest died.
• “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (Rom. 12:17).
• “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19).

This preamble is to assure you that Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount (which I will address tomorrow) is not a change of God’s mind.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Life and Doctrine 2

I received this question: “I don’t understand your point on doctrine. How does this compare to the false doctrine (i.e., teachings and preachings) of Christian cults?”

False teaching or false doctrine is countered several places in the New Testament. Here are a few: Colossians 3:17-19, 1 Timothy 1:18-20, and 1 John 4:1-3.

The doctrine that Paul is talking about in 1 Timothy 4:16 is saving teaching. How do we know? “You will save yourselves and your hearers.” What saves is the gospel.

Obviously, the secondary doctrines and practices that divide Christians cannot all be right. Some are not important. Read Romans 14 several times. It is the primary doctrine, the gospel, that saves and sanctifies. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men” (Rom. 14:17-18).

Christians have used the word “doctrine” and the content of secondary teachings to divide saved people. To my knowledge, the Bible does not use the word “doctrine” that way. When Paul stood up to Peter in Galatians 2:14, the issue was saving truth. It was the same in Acts 11 and 15.
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:15-18)

No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are. (Acts 15:11)
The early creeds were designed to refute heretical teaching that did not save. The later confessions divided saved people from each other. Yet we call these confessions sound doctrine.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Watch Your Life and Doctrine

For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Cor. 4:17)

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 2:19-21)
These are testimonies about Timothy’s life. He was known for his godliness.

Paul later wrote this instruction to him: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). Life and doctrine—save yourself and your hearers. Pretty good stuff. Pretty good results.

What is the life? It is justification and sanctification. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).

What is the doctrine? “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13). “Doctrine” here does not refer to the unique beliefs of the various systematic theologies. It is the teaching that saves us and makes us holy, i.e. the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.